By Steve Czerniak and Dan Mistura, SCORE of Southeast Michigan

NOTE: This is part one of a three-part series on best practices for hiring at a startup or growing small business. Part two is “Finding the Best People” and part three will be “How to Interview Qualified Candidates.”

Almost every startup entrepreneur complains how hard it is to hire good people.  In the high risk environment of a startup, it’s very disruptive to not hire people who fit in with the current organization. Not everybody is built to meet the challenges of the entrepreneurial environment. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers and they need to find people who understand what they are walking into and what that means.

One of the most important thing for a new startup company to be successful is the people they hire. It is key. It needs to be done well.

Get to Know the Startup

The candidate needs to know where the company is in its lifecycle and where the entrepreneur is taking it. Startups don’t have much of a business record to sell to a new employee. 

The hiring entrepreneur needs to do a good job of selling the prospect on the startup. The candidates need to be sold on the leader’s vision. Plans for the company to grow and how they can be part of that success needs to be discussed. The candidate needs to believe in where the entrepreneur is headed and excited about being part of it. 

BOTTOM LINE: You need to sell them on why they should join your company.

Get to Know You

Help them to know who you are. Share your mission statement and your philosophy of doing business. Remember they are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them.

Your responsibility is to find people who have the capacity to be a good employee. It is your responsibility to spend the necessary time and effort to make them successful. The candidate needs to be convinced that you will help them to succeed while they help you.

BOTTOM LINE: What does a person get when they join your startup organization? They get YOU.

Get to Know the Position

The people need a job they like. They need to envision that they can do well and that they can find opportunity within the job structure. Tell the candidate what a typical day will be like.

The proper selection of employees is understanding of the job to be filled. Build a clear picture of the objective of the job and what is really necessary to function in that job. The hiring entrepreneur needs to think this through before they even post the job. Think about it. What are you going to post? “I need someone to work with me.” This is called “hiring to fog a mirror.” Anyone breathing can meet that qualification. Startups you have time to bring in marginal people simply to fill a job. It is better to the leave the position open til you find the best person to hire.

Be ready to discuss the goals and objectives for the candidate in the position.

BOTTOM LINE: Define what you are looking for.

Get to Know the Candidate

Compare the person against the known factors of the job. Try to evaluate if the candidates personality will fit into the firm. The key factor in the selection is your ability to match the person to a specific job.

BOTTOM LINE: Hiring is a two way street. The candidate needs to sell you why you should hire them. They need to convince you that they are qualified and capable.

The Bottom Bottom Line

When interviewing candidates for the startup, ask yourself: “Is this a person that I would want to represent my company?”

We’ll cover more in the rest of the series...

About the Authors

Steve Czerniak retired after a successful 37-year career as a leader and innovator. The last fifteen years were a series of opportunities that honed his skills as an internal consultant and “change agent.” In retirement, he is a volunteer consultant and a SCORE Subject Matter Expert for the Southeast Michigan chapter. His personal volunteer objective is to “derive personal satisfaction from helping others, and the organizations they operate, to develop and prosper.”

Dan Mistura is President of Personnel Consulting Group and a Volunteer Mentor with SCORE of Southeast Michigan. Dan helps clients to develop an idea, product or service to start a business or grow a company. He works with companies to find and hire the best employees. As part of his work, he will help the client company to develop a marketing program for seeking to fill a new position. 

Key Topics

Hiring the Best People for a Startup